I once heard a story that happened during the 1973-1974 revival in Canada. Believers from many denominations were meeting and praying together, and someone prayed for the wife of a pastor whose church did not believe in healing to be healed. Barely had the prayer been uttered before she cried out, “Wait! We don’t believe in that!” But as it turned out, she was healed before she stopped speaking.
For many years, I have been involved in Christian and Missionary Alliance churches, have earned a Master of Divinity degree in one of their seminaries, and have served as a pastor of several Alliance churches. Yet I wonder sometimes whether there is continuing adherence in practice to the core belief in Christ as Healer today.
Here are some questions for consideration.
- How many pastors have ever preached even one sermon on one of the core passages that deal with healing in the atonement (Isaiah 53:5, I Peter 2:24, Matthew 8:15-17)?
- How many pastors have preached on James 5:15-17, the key passage that deals with the practice of anointing with oil and prayer by the elders for healing?
- How often is the Lord for the body (I Corinthians 6:19-20) mentioned in current preaching and teaching, with its implications for reasonably healthy care of the body in eating, exercise and medical care, and avoiding practices which cannot be said with good conscience to glorify God?
- How many elders participate in this ministry of anointing with oil and prayer in their churches, and how many believe in its being valid today?
- How many churches regularly have opportunities in their services for people who attend to request anointing and prayer for healing?
- How many opportunities are being given to people who have been healed to speak to glorify the God who has healed them?
- How many pastors, church leaders and Sunday School teachers have read A. B. Simpson’s The Gospel of Healing, or T.J;. McCrossan’s Bodily Healing and the Atonement, or F. F. Bosworth’s Christ the Healer, or Keith Bailey’s The Children’s Bread, or Richard Sipley’s Understanding Divine Healing, or Andrew Murray’s Divine Healing, or A. J. Gordon’s The Ministry of Divine Healing, or considered these books as possible resources for preaching and teaching? (They are all on my bookshelf. Considerable testimony on healing on the mission field is also in Rosalind Goforth’s books about her and her husband Jonathan’s ministry in Korea. Kurt Koch also has considerable testimonies of healings as part of his reports on revivals in Indonesia and Canada, among others.)
I personally only want God to be glorified in the ministry of preaching, teaching and praying for healing as part of the ministry of Christ through the church today. I abhor any attempts at personal showmanship or any methods in which someone may try to distract the attention from Jesus Christ as the healer (John 14:11-14). I would, moreover, challenge anyone to read and consider the scriptures first on this topic, as on any other. It’s unfortunate that what I consider a completely silly and too often unchallenged overspecification of I Corinthians 13:9-10 has been used to try to assert that the spiritual gifts of tongues and prophecy have ceased and signs, wonders and the ministry of healing as well (though that’s not even addressed in that passage). But I’m convinced that a fair reading of the scriptures will justify these conclusions:
- Bodily healing is included in the atonement as part of its present benefits for the believer today.
- The benefit of bodily healing in the atonement does not mean complete and perfect healing and health today any more than the forgiveness of sin and freedom from the power of sin means sinless perfection for the present day believer.
- God will continue to bear testimony to the truth of his gospel by providing sign healings even to unbelievers today.
- Prayer and the anointing of oil for the sick is a continuing ministry of the elders of the church today.
- Christian sanctification means growing in holiness in body, soul and spirit (I Thessalonians 5:23).
Therefore, if we believe it, let’s preach it and practice the truth of Christ as Healer for today without either embarrassment or showmanship. He does continue to heal today, and the glory of his healing stands as a witness to his power to save fully and completely from sin and all its effects upon our lives.
*** PLEASE NOTE: I am fully aware that there are brothers and sisters in Christ that do believe that the gift of tongues, prophecy and healings have ceased. Again, I would ask them to continue to look at the scriptures. Nevertheless if they find themselves in a church which does believe that the gifts of tongues and prophecy continue and that Christ continues to heal today, I would ask them, with concern for avoiding divisiveness in their local church and denomination, and to avoid making false an unethical promises in any kind of membership or leadership vows, please find a church and a denomination which believes as you believe, and minister and serve Christ there. Continue to love and serve Christ and your brothers and sisters, but have the courage of your convictions and serve where you can fully assent to the doctrines and mission of your local church and denomination.